No matter the size or configuration, General Motors knows a vehicle adorned with the Hummer name carries certain expectations. Witness the dynamic H3T, a midsize truck that infuses all of Hummer's mil-spec spirit into vehicle that can strike at a broader, more attainable market than the original H1 and bulky H2.
Long anticipated, Hummer will be introducing the H3 line at the 2004 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show with this tough concept vehicle, offering the first look at the brand's upcoming, expressive vehicles.
"The H3T concept expresses a vision of the potential of future Hummer vehicles, targeted at enthusiasts who desire the Hummer image and capability, but in a smaller, non-SUV configuration," says Clay Dean, design director for small trucks and Hummer. "It also provides a visual clue to the evolution of Hummer's design."
Innovative features abound in the H3T: The pickup box incorporates side-access doors, along with drop-down assist steps that also double as weather-tight storage compartments. The H3T's unique tailgate forms an unbroken load surface when down, contributing to the H3T's versatility. There's also a large, power-operated folding canvas sunroof and drop-down rear window that combine to offer an open-air driving experience.
There wouldn't be a Hummer badge on the H3T if it didn't promise the ability to traverse challenging terrain that would leave lesser 4x4s spinning their tires. Its wheels-at-the-corners stance, along with 34-inch-tall tires and 11.5 inches of ground clearance, gives the H3T a 51-degree approach angle and a 50-degree departure angle -- off-road performance metrics more in line with heavily modified rock crawlers than a factory-produced street machine.
And while the H3T delivers on the promise of its familial looks, it does so with a youthful, masculine flair. "Regardless if you're a man or woman, it brings out a rebellious side to you that harks back to younger days," says Dean. "It's an irreverent vehicle - a bad boy in a black tie."
Riding on a 118.6-inch wheelbase and measuring 74.5 inches wide, the H3T wears the classic Hummer proportions -- wide stance, low roofline, and wheels at the corners -- that have made the H1 and H2 recognizable all over the world. And like the H1 truck, the H3T incorporates the cab and bed in a single structure for enhanced strength and an integrated appearance.
"This is a different-size vehicle, but it's a Hummer throughout," says Dean. "The cab configuration is personal and the smaller size makes the H3T more manageable and less intimidating to some drivers than larger vehicles. The smaller size also gives the H3T a more sporting and dynamic driving sensation."
To complement the H3T's solid structure with a "go anywhere, do anything" aesthetic, GM and Nike designers collaborated on several key aspects of the vehicle's design.
The H3T's tires evolved from discussions between GM Design and Nike Design regarding the question of off-road performance footwear influencing off-road performance tires. The result is the ACG TA tire, which addresses multiple traction environments with sand paddles, traction pads, and multiple durometers of rubber defined by different-color breakouts -- much like the design of Nike's ACG trail and hiking shoes. BFGoodrich partnered to engineer and build the striking tires.
Nike's influence on the interior includes the use of its Sphere material on the H3T's seats. The lightweight material, used by Nike in specialized clothing, can cool or warm the body without mechanical means. It also conveys a technical aesthetic that looks at home in the H3T. The seats also are enhanced by Nike Epic backpacks, which are integrated into seat-back clamshells and released with elastic bungees.
"The Nike collaboration is unique and exciting," says Dean. "It allowed us to share ideas and thoughts, while comparing our design process with a world leader in design innovation. The experience has enhanced the whole H3T project."
Hummer Design Language
The H3T's proportions reflect its off-road ability, but also symbolize Hummer's styling -- an American design that says as much about driver freedom as Hummer's off-road experience.
"It's a minimalist approach that conveys purpose," says Dean. "The H3T represents the continual approach to Hummer's overall design theme - simple in appearance yet strong to the touch. From parts like the door handles to the dashboard details, the H3T looks and feels as if it's been milled from a solid billet of steel or aluminum."
That purposeful appearance is delineated from the Hummer H1's military roots. "We evolved the Hummer design language with the H2," says Dean. "But we're continuing that vision and progressing the brand."
The H3T's interior environment includes a rugged shifter handle that folds completely forward and military-inspired toggle switches for various controls. An altimeter, compass and inclinometer also are mounted on the dashboard.
The technical leather and Nike-designed Sphere seat fabric continue to support the athletic, performance theme of the H3T, as do the chamois, petrol, and paprika orange interior colors.
"It's not necessarily a luxury environment in the classic sense -- it's a new type of luxury," says Dave Lyon, interior design director for body-on-frame vehicles. "The expression of quality through the use of specific materials conveys a premium look without the use of traditional luxury appointments like wood or leather."
The same goes for the H3T's exterior, which features LED headlamps and taillamps, an integrated winch and tow hooks, as well as front and rear skid plates stamped out of aluminum and joined with side "rock sliders." There also are control arm and rear axle skid plates, along with a carbon-fiber skid plate/belly pan, which protects the vehicle when off the road and aids aerodynamic efficiency on the highway. A brush guard is integrated with the front skid plate and the taillamps have integrated lens protectors. Driving/marker lamps are built into the side-view mirrors.
The exterior colors, Petrol Blue Metallic and Satin Titanium Alloy, fuel the H3T's theme of a rugged vehicle with serious attitude. The forward-opening hood is aided by trigger-operated latches, which integrate into the trademark Hummer hood louvers. An exposed radiator is another classic Hummer styling cue and a camera mounted on the hood can be used to record off-road excursions in DVD format.
At the rear, the tailgate features exposed hinges (with integrated gas struts) and cantilevers to provide an unbroken load platform for the bed. The bed is more than 4 feet wide and has very small fender intrusions.
"The H3T supposes a new realm of rugged, yet premium choices for drivers who find larger vehicles don't fit their needs," says Lyon. "With the H3T, a whole new group of driving enthusiasts benefits from the relevance of Hummer's unflappable capability. There simply is nothing like it in the midsize truck market."
The H3T is built on a modified GM midsize truck platform, including the coil-over front and rear suspensions. Fox remote-reservoir shocks are used for the ultimate in off-road dampening. An automatic transfer case locks the vehicle into four-wheel drive when needed.
The locking front and rear axles on the H3T are borrowed from full-size GM trucks. Braking is accomplished with four-wheel discs from Alcon. The 15-inch-diameter rotors are clamped down upon with Baer six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers in the rear; 19-inch wheels are mounted at all corners.
A 350-horsepower turbocharged version of GM's new Vortec 3500 inline five-cylinder engine powers the H3T, and it's backed by the heavy-duty Hydra-Matic 4L65-E electronically controlled four-speed transmission. The compact turbocharged five-cylinder engine makes 350 lb.-ft. of torque, which helps the H3T tackle steep terrain with ease.
Although currently a concept vehicle, the H3T was built with production-type components, including chassis and suspension components that were leveraged from existing GM truck architectures.
"Everything about the H3T says Hummer," says Dean. "The package may be a little smaller, but the personality, functionality and, most importantly, the off-road superiority is all there."